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Martin Varsavsky

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The Internet Did Not Sink the Markets a Decade Ago, the Markets Almost Sunk the Internet

Posted: 03/23/2012 3:51 pm

10 years ago all of us on the Internet were licking our wounds. We had been taken for a crazy ride in which we went from a point in whatever we touch was champagne to whatever we did was shit.

As an entrepreneur that lived through 1998 to 2002 I emerged reasonably well, I sold my shares in Viatel when it was worth $1.2bn, I sold Ya.com for $700 million but did not sell Jazztel when it was worth $5bn because I was its CEO and saw it go down to $700M (now it`s worth $1.4bn). Then I lost $50M in Einsteinet one of the best cloud computing start ups in Europe that was killed by the post bubble era in which financing completely dried out. So as you read this post you will see no bitterness.

But looking back at 2001/2002 I see this time not as a period in which Internet companies destroyed the financial markets, but as a time in which the financial markets almost destroyed the Internet. It was financiers/analysts who drove those insane valuations up and then down. What should have been a smooth ride on the internet, an era of taking more and more global citizens in its midst, became a crazy ride in which the internet itself gained enormous prestige and was later, for a while, seen as a useless gimmick. Only around 2007 people again realized that the Internet was simply transforming the world economy and was here to stay.

And then came 2008, when the financial industry practically destroyed the world economy. That was when the same financial firms did to the world what they had done to the Internet, inflate it and let it fall like dead weight.

Having been a happy customer of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and others I don't want people to read this post as a rant against financial firms. We need financial firms. But what we don't need is financial firms to do what they did first to the Internet and then to the overall economy, namely to hype them out of value and sink them hard for no reason. In simple terms what I am advocating has been done before and that is to separate trading from advising. The Chinese Walls in these firms never worked and never will.

 

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